LECTIO DIVINA – Leading Sheep to a New Level of Consciousness
Lectio Divina is derived from a Latin word that means “holy reading.” It is an ancient method of slowly reading the scriptures in a repetitive fashion in order to encounter the presence of God.
Friar Luke Dysinger explains that this “VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.” (See The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina)
Today, this practice that has been kept alive in the tradition of Benedictine monastics and oblates is not only popular among Catholics, it has gained acceptance in other faiths and, more recently, in the emerging church.
The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project, an organization dedicated to contemplative youth ministry, has a description of the four steps of Lectio Divina on their website:
In order to practice lectio divina, select a time and place that is peaceful and in which you may be alert and prayerfully attentive. Dispose yourself for prayer in whatever way is natural for you. This may be a spoken prayer to God to open you more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of silence to empty yourself of thoughts, images, and emotions.
Reading (lectio) – Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts or even disturbs you.
Reflecting (meditatio) – Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.
Expressing (oratio) – When you feel ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise.
Resting (contemplatio) – Allow yourself to simply rest silently with God for a time in the stillness of your heart remaining open to the quiet fullness of God’s love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.
-An Ancient Way of Praying with Scripture
Mike Perschon at Youth Specialties compares the four steps of Lectio Divina to “four levels of consciousness…which introduces you at each new level into a whole new world of reality” that occurs through the four levels of repetitious reading:
1- LITERAL LEVEL CONSCIOUSNESS
2- Moral level of consciousness
3- the Allegorical level which requires a Spiritual level of listening
4- We simply rest in the presence of the one who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. We call this level, Union of Life or the unitive level of consciousness.
-An Experience of Lectio Divina
It is no secret that chanting a mantra indeed empties the mind of thought and opens one up to a different state of consciousness. Mantras are used in yoga, Zen, Hindu, and Transcendental Meditation. Here is what some of these websites say about mantras:
*From a Yoga website:
“Modern science has reaffirmed what yogis have known for thousands of years – that SOUND is able to effect the chemistry of the body and mind, and alter thought patterns. (…) Mantra Meditation is a VERY Powerful technique!
You will discover that the repetition of Mantra allows your mind to focus and concentrate more completely on sound, and clear away other thoughts, emotions and distractions which divert our energies. Our senses become more acute and our mind become sharper and more perceptive as the mind clears away the jumble of unnecessary inner dialogue.”
*From a Meditation website:
“The repetition of a mantra…is meant as a method of practice which brings about a power (siddhi) to reach the supreme state of consciousness. In this state there is silence within the mind which becomes still (shaant) and eventually you will merge the mind or individual awareness with the whole, which is Pure Consciousness and Knowingness. Every time you practice you obtain the result, as this fourth state of consciousness is always with you.”
In spite of the well known purpose of mantra repetition to clear the mind and achieve this state of altered consciousness, many Christians today are mistakenly teaching that this is how to meditate on the Word of God. But is this how we fill our minds with God’s Word – by emptying our minds?
True biblical meditation involves thinking and understanding, as we read at bible.org in an article called Biblical Meditation:
What Does It Mean to Meditate?
The first question we must consider concerns the meaning of meditation and what meditation involves. This is particularly important to the Christian because of the great and growing emphasis on meditation in eastern religions. Transcendental meditation, as it is often called, is not biblical meditation. It is dangerous and actually opens up one’s mind for Satanic attack as it is found in New Age thinking.
Meditation means “the act of focusing one’s thoughts: to ponder, think on, muse.” Meditation consists of reflective thinking or contemplation, usually on a specific subject to discern its meaning or significance or a plan of action.
In Eastern forms of meditation as in TM there is an attempt to empty the mind. Biblical meditation, however, is an attempt to empty the mind of the wrong things in order to fill it with what is right and true according to the index of God’s inspired Word.
-Biblical Meditation by J. Hampton Keathley
If you want to learn about God, understand His Word, and enter into His presence, Lectio Divina is not the way to go about it. What would you do if someone called you and kept repeating the same phrase over and over again? Would you talk to them, or would you hang up the phone?
What is Lectio Divina? @GotQuestions.org
More Disappearing Trails